The Atelier series’ alchemy has always seemed like a rather unnatural process. After all, these games ask us to believe ordinary men and women gather a group of unrelated items, pop them in a pot, stir it up, and suddenly create a totally unrelated object that would otherwise require complicated manufacturing processes. Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey does its best to place us in a world where this not only seems out of place, but like an absolutely natural part of society. Thanks to the way in which it handles creation, it works.
Firis is a young woman who’s mainly figuring things out on her own. After an unexpected meeting with Sophie and Plachta, the heroines of the previous entry in Atelier’s Mysterious saga, she catches the alchemy bug. While many previous installments have required people to purchase books from vendors or receive assignments to gain recipes, Atelier: Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey involves an inspiration system. As Firis participates in activities around the world, she’ll end up coming up with ideas for new items on her own. Some of these product ideas will come about by participating in quests. Others happen as you gather items in the field. Even more have specific objectives.
Finding these recipes is an organic process. Coming by them as part of a quest chain is logical. Of course you’d learn what you need to do to solve a problem by talking to people, investigating areas, and taking things step by step. It’s how you solve problems in real life. (Say if a computer malfunctions when connecting to the internet, you turn it off and on again, do the same with the router or modem, and go through a process to get things working again.) But finding new items to make via other methods is equally clear. Firis has a Recipe Book in the menu, filled with possible items you can make. The ones you know about show up as actual pictures. The ones that aren’t quite ready yet are question marks. There will be shadows suggesting the shape of the thing. (Think of it as “Who’s that Pokemon?” with household good and weapons.) As you do things that might unlock the recipe, you’ll receive a hint about it. Maybe you’ll need to gather grasses or beat certain enemies. It’ll give you clues about everyday actions Firis will take to make these things a reality.
Likewise, Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey’s quests occur in a natural fashion. This is evident from the moment Firis takes her first steps as an alchemist and continues throughout the game. There exist things called chain quests. Think of it as a butterfly effect. Something small grows into something much larger. You’ll find one assignment, then need to find and carry out even more quests that gradually result in a bigger effect improving the world around Firis. At one point, Firis might come across a completely destroyed bridge. By talking to people around the area and helping out, you’ll craft and create items that give you more access to the world around her.
This means Firis isn’t limited to stationary quests where she finds a quest board or hub and fills out a required form to turn things in. There’s a bit more involvement in the community around her. Which makes sense, since she hasn’t settled in one town. It’s only logical that she’ll need to seek out people, like other alchemists for recommendations. Keeping an eye out for townsfolk who happen to be so vocal that you’ll see their word bubbles before you even talk to them, suggesting that they’re in immediate need of someone who might just be able to toss some junk in a pot and pull out a pie, just makes sense. It’s not like she actually has a brick and mortar atelier.
In Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey, alchemy feels like a natural part of the world. Firis progresses from town to town, learning as she wanders around the world. Which is a logical thing. If you take a journey like this, you’re going to grow as a person. Being an alchemist feels like a totally normal procession, because she’s running into others like her, using her skills in a logical way, and developing new recipes for items after valuable life experiences. Seeing things occur the way they do here makes the idea of alchemy seem plausible.
Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey will come to the PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, and PC on March 7, 2017. It will come to Europe on March 10, 2017.